Last weekend's rousing production of Our Town by the Towne Players of Garner, performed as part of the Garner Centennial Celebration, was a real treat not only for fans of this perennially popular masterpiece of Modern Drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Thornton Wilder (1897-1975), but for Triangle theatergoers in general. TPG director Beth Honeycutt added to her directorial laurels by staging this epic drama of life in small-town America, at the dawn of the 20th century, on the postage-stamp-sized stage of The Garner Historic Auditorium.
In dividing the role of Stage Manager between two TPG stalwarts, Holmes Morrison and Frances Stanley, and adding slide projections of vintage photos of turn-of-the-century scenes of Garner and its inhabitants, Honeycutt underscored the timeless nature and universal themes of this classic portrait of everyday life, love and romance, and death in the United States, circa 1901-13. In changing the locale from Grover's Corners, New Hampshire to Garner, North Carolina, Honeycutt also accommodated the distinctly Southern accents of many of the performers.
Beth Honeycutt's husband, Scott, served with distinction as the show's technical director, devising a few versatile pieces of scenery to suggest the various locales where the play's events unfold; and costume designer David Serxner did a magnificent job of dressing the huge TPG cast in a vivid array of authentic period costumes. These TPG players are all dressed up, and they make the most of their moments in the spotlight.
Holmes Morrison and Frances Stanley, who have great chemistry and delighted TPG audiences with their antics in Driving Miss Daisy, smoothly share the Stage Manager's role, providing incisive, godlike commentary on the goings on. Jeffrey Nugent and Kelly Stansell are good as Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs; and Mark Anderson and Sandra Shelton acquit themselves well as the Gibbses' next-door neighbors, Editor and Mrs. Webb.
Joshua Hamilton gives a passionate performance as high school baseball phenom-turned-farmer George Gibbs; and Carla Ammons is excellent as Emily Webb, the lovely and intelligent girl-next-door who becomes George's wife and soul mate. Arlie Honeycutt and Blake Stansell are cute as George's worshipful little sister, Rebecca, and Emily's spunky little brother, Wally.
Michael Armstrong and Dave Brooks are personable as milkman Howie Newsome and Constable Warren, respectively; and Gekeela Ray is a hoot as the gossipy Mrs. Soames. But Rusty Sutton steals the show with his sour expressions and surly body language as the unhappy, openly bored, and not-so-secretly drunken choirmaster Simon Stimson.
All in all, the only thing that this outstanding Towne Players of Garner presentation of Our Town lacked is a longer run. Maybe TPG will reprise it sometime in the not-too-distant future.
The Towne Players of Garner: http://www.towneplayers.org/. Garner Centennial Celebration: http://www.garner100.com/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/Show.asp?id=6845. Thornton Wilder Society: http://www.thorntonwildersociety.org/.